Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fiji Me: We built a house in a morning!

So the Christmas-New Year celebrations are over, and I don't know about you, but I'm feeling in a wee bit of a slump.

No presents? No special foods? No lazy days, spent swimming, watching movies, reading, and messing about on the computer?

It's enough to make anyone feel less than merry.

Loads of washing? Check. Endless cleaning? Check. Never-ending list of books, pencils, glue, and (signs of the times) USB sticks to buy, and be covered and labelled for school? Check.

Clearly, while the proverbial 'holiday' is over, school holidays are not.

Which is why it's the perfect time to look back at some of my missing memories from 2011.

They're the moments that have been have written about and stored in my drafts file, but because of commitments like, I don't know, life, I didn't get around to posting about at the time.

This weekend, it's back to our Fijian holiday, and in particular, the wonderful day where we built a fish house in a morning!

This special experience was one of the highlights of our stay at Shangri-La's The Fijian Resort And Spa at Yanuca Island, Fiji.

Mereoni (Oni) Mataika runs the resort's award-winning Marine Education Centre. (There will be a separate post on this later). Her work includes operating a reef protection environment program that allows guest to interact directly with the natural environment by building fish houses.

The homes preserve and grow the area's fragile coral reef ecosystem, and encourage fish and other marine life to visit and breed there. Not to mention the growth of coral.
Oni explains that decades of cyclones have damaged some of the pristine reefs that protect the Fijian islands. Other areas - not around Yanuca Island, which is a protected area - the ocean has been overfished or polluted.

What I love about The Fijian Resort And Spa is that they take a wholistic, community, good corporite citizen role of their view in the community and the environment as well.

They give back as much as possible, and even give guests the opportunity to maintain the environment that has attracted them to Fiji in the first place.

We were thrilled when we heard about the program, and wasted no time putting our hands up to build our very own fish house. I mean, everyone has build a sandcastle, but a fish house? It was another first for all three of us!

Oni picked us up in a buggy and took us to a quieter part of the resort, away from the sun lounges and kayaks, where we practically had the beach to ourselves.

A lovely local man called Moses, who studies for his marine biology degree in his spare time, while not working at the resort AND supporting his wife and kids, was waiting to talk us through it. (I so admire the staff here, they are amazing).

The magical beach where fish houses are made

Help preserve all this? How could we not?
Oni tells the kids why fish houses are important. (See below for an explanation)

Harmonie and Moses get started by placing rocks in a circle and cementing them together. Chase watches until he gets the idea...

...And then enthusiastically joins in!

Fish House Central
The partially made home. The kids, with Moses's help, have used rocks, coral, shells and cement to build a house, purposely leaving windows for the fish to swim in and out of.  The inside remains hollow, just like a home.

Then it's time to pick up shells to decorate the house with. Once the house is properly dry, Oni will 'seed' the house with fast-growing coral which will eventually grow and help rebuild the reef. Attracting even more marine life. And encouraging more coral to grow. See how it works? Genius!

Chase finds a piece of brain coral. Oni tells him it grows about 1 cm a year, so we work out this is as old as Chase! It's too big to put on the fish house sadly, and he'd love to take it home, but I figure Australian Quarantine would have something to say about that. So we leave it where it is, and where it has been for the past 10 years. And we all agree something feels very right about that!
Moses and Harmonie put the finishing touches on our house.

Then Moses attaches a special tag. Oni will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's called a geo-tag. Basically it's a tag that means that it contains the information that this is the fish house that Chase and Harmonie built at the Shangri La's Fijian Resort and Spa. And, whenever the mood takes us, we can check in via google earth and see where our fish house, what type of fish (or eels/snakes/other marine life) are using it, and what type of coral has grown on it. Isn't that cool?

This is what our tag looks like. The holiday souvenir that lasts forever. 

Our finished fish house.
The kids even left their autographs on it! (Probably one of the rare times they are allowed to write in wet concrete).

Our happy Fish House Building Team. That's Moses and Oni with Chase and Harmonie.

Why are Fish Houses important? It's all part of coral gardening.

Those of us blessed to live near coral reefs know that they take a long time to grow. So after the destruction caused by humans or natural disasters like cyclones, it can take forever for reefs - and marine life - to recover.

At the Fijian Resort and Spa, Oni's role at the Marine Education Centre includes removing the coral-destroying crown of thorn starfish, and rebuilding coral by constructing fish houses.

It's not just guests who are encouraged to get involved. Local people and school children are educated on how to help as well.

The houses are stone, cement, and coral structures which are hollow inside, with windows to encourage fish to shelter inside. The houses also absorb wave energy, and reduce impact of waves on the coastline.

MIA's stay at Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa was sponsored by Tourism Fiji, Air Pacific Fiji, and the resort. It's a wonderful destination, not just for families, but for couples, groups, and singles as well. (The resort does have adults-only areas including rooms and pools).


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a wonderful idea and a lovely activity for the kids-fun and educational and teaches them that what they do can help! :)

Missy Boo said...

What a fabulous experience! Your kids will remember that forever

Ms_MotorbikeNut said...

By the pictures & sounds of it, C & H really had fun making the fish house.

Also going by the pics (the amount you took & how sharp & clear they are) they had one happy mum as well

(((( Hugs )))) XXXX Kisses XXXX

Anonymous said...

WoW!! This is amazing!! Wonderful idea indeed:)!!

Hotly Spiced said...

Oh. I didn't know we needed to be building fish houses. I love Fiji. It's such a great place to go with the family for a holiday. Looks like you had an amazing, relaxing and educational time.

Mark L. Fendrick said...

I think I am more jealous of your vacation than you are of mine. Fiji sounds so exotic! One day ...

Michelle Roger said...

What a great way to engage kids and get them to own their part in the environment. A gorgeous setting doesn't hurt either.

Rubyjaz said...

That place looks fantastic, mmmmm, Fiji. Excellent learning opportunity for the kids as well.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of anything like that before. What an amazing thing to do with your kids!